LOS ANGELES (CNS) — Rep. Tony Cardenas (D-Pacoima) is urging Univision and AT&T to resolve a dispute in which the television giant removed the signals of most of Univision’s networks from its U-Verse pay-TV system.
The feud between AT&T and Univision Communications, the nation’s largest Spanish-language media company, concerns programming fees.
Unable to reach an agreement on a new contract, AT&T dropped the flagship Univision network, secondary broadcast outlet UniMas and cable channels Galavision and Univision Deportes from U-Verse on March 3.
However, AT&T said it would allow U-Verse customers to watch the Spanish-language broadcast of the Democratic debate between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders.
AT&T has about 300,000 U-Verse customers in the Los Angeles region. The blackout does not affect AT&T’s DirecTV customers.
“I feel a responsibility to express my serious concern for the constituents in my district and all over the country whose access to information has been negatively impacted by this dispute,” Cardenas said.
“I strongly urge both parties of the negotiation to quickly and responsibly resolve this situation and come to an agreement in order to ensure the Latino community can continue accessing the content they choose at this pivotal time for our country,” the lawmaker said.
The congressman said the dispute “highlights how important it is for the individuals and companies that control our media landscape to maintain a commitment to civic responsibility, particularly to the Latino community,” which he said has an unprecedented opportunity to be a strong and decisive voice in the presidential election.
“Few things would be more detrimental to this potential than limiting the viewing options for one of the Latino community’s most trusted sources of information,” Cardenas said.
“It is difficult to overstate the importance of media as a tool to encourage civic engagement and participation, and the importance of a diverse and well-informed public,” he said. “The timely resolution of this dispute is an issue of public interest. I hope AT&T and Univision can expeditiously resolve this dispute in the best interests of the Latino community.”
Univision signaled Monday, March 7, that it was ready to resume negotiations with U-Verse.
“We are always proud to stand with the Hispanic community, regardless of the costs to Univision,” said Jessica Herrera-Flanigan, Univision’s executive VP of government relations and public policy.
“For us, it is about standing up for the future of multicultural media and the opportunity for it to thrive in a multi-platform marketplace,” she said. “In many of the markets U-Verse serves, Univision stations are ranked number one, regardless of language.
“If, as the most popular Spanish-language broadcaster, we do not take a stand and require the distributors treat us on par with English-language broadcasters, what does that mean for the minority and independent creators that come after us?”
For its part, AT&T characterized the situation as “unfortunate,” and maintained that Univision’s proposed price increase would ultimately come at the expense of viewers.
“Spanish-language channels are important to us and our customers,” said Jim Cicconi, AT&T’s senior executive VP of external and legislative affairs. “AT&T’s focus is to offer a wide range of content for our Hispanic viewers, while keeping cost increases, and bills, down as much as possible. If Univision really cares about their audiences, they will immediately restore their channels to U-Verse homes while we figure this out.”